1. The winner of my CSN Giveaway via random.org is Jenn from Wanderlu5t: A Travel Blog! Congratulations on winning a $50 gift certificate on any CSN store item.
2. So I’m participating on this thing called Bloggerstock today, which means I am guest posting on Jenn’s Wanderlu5t blog (I swear her winning is purely coincidence) which is pretty cool because she’s a travel blogger too. Or sort of.
Meanwhile, my blog today is written by the lovely Risha, from You Can Read Me Anything. Risha is also a nomad; much more than I have ever been which makes her guest appearance here more than welcome. I’m very excited to have her here. She currently lives in Manila, Philippines where I’m currently residing (as of yesterday!). This means we will probably meet up soon. When I realized that Risha got assigned to guest post for me I was pretty stoked since I actually knew, and read her blog, rather than having some random blogger I didn’t know about write for me. So you should hop on over and start reading her blog. It’s full of awesomeness and great writing. And even though I say I’m tired of the personal blogging scene, her blog is one of those exceptions for me that just contradicts what I even say.
Call me a desk, if you like. Sometimes, you call me a table. Whatever you like- I am but a receptacle. A dumping ground for your: bag, phone charger, diaries, secret-boxes, wine bottles, lighters, passports, stacked books, thesis copies, chocolate wrappers, bags full of new clothes, an unzipped purse, your open wallet, foreign currency, condoms, a broken ring, sellotape, letters you haven’t posted yet, books you’re referencing, gym schedules, phone numbers, postal addresses, an earring you found on the floor, a hairpin still holding onto a strand of brown…
Sometimes you slump over your propped elbow, sometimes you lean against me with your arms crossed. Sometimes you heft yourself up and sit, your back straight. At times, you prop your feet up. At others, you leave behind your hairbrush and a tube of clear mascara. In the mornings, a cascade of receipts you find in your bag.
Headphones blaring, I can hear you. I can read you as you scribble in your notebooks. I can feel it as you drop a champagne cork into a box of knick knacks. Celebrate.
Postcards and letters that you write, some you receive. Pinned ‘I love Paris’ condoms, a phone buzzing. A framed photo of your best friend that you often touch. A finger to caress. A wine-bottle candle holder. A Chiang glass water bottle from Thailand. A boarding pass from Tokyo-Narita Airport.
A treasure chest full of foreign currency. Little Guatemalan Dolls to tell your secrets to. You write those out and hide them in large boxes full of tears and secret smiles. Segregated books: thesis, work, fun. You spent nights typing out of reference books that lay strewn, pages marked and ink stains on your fingers. Notebooks propped up and not a bit of space to rest your weary head on.
You’d bang your fist against the table sometimes. Or your head in your hands. You hardly ever paint anymore.
Sometimes, I’m pretty.
This entry will be a bit candid and disjointed but it’s what I need to get out, right now…
I grew up with AOL, Angelfire and Geocities. I learned HTML the old fashioned way. With tables and frames and cheesy marquees. I’ve been blogging since 1998, through personal webpages. Back when everything was manual and you had to create your own directories, html files, and links.
My first blogspot blog was a health and fitness blog. I hesitate to call it a “health and weight loss” blog because I never really had a lot to lose. But I did focus a lot of wasted energy on losing. I quit that blog because I hated how obsessed I was getting with “the last 5 lbs.” when I was already 100 lbs. Screw that. I quit. And I gained weight again. And I didn’t care.
I couldn’t stop blogging though. I made another blogspot blog which would be the predecessor of this domain. At first, I didn’t allow “the public” to see it simply by not promoting my space. I created my own identity under “Floreta” to reclaim the middle name I had loss. I focused writing on the topic of marriage. Why should you marry? Why should I marry? What does marriage mean in society? What should it mean to me? As a staunch Feminist, it’s hard to accept marriage at face value. I needed to redefine it to make peace with the idea. Then a break-up happened and I needed my blog for therapy. I began reaching out to communities. 20sb. My writing took on a creative edge as I began to pour my heart out in poetry; never knowing I was even a poet. It was gutsy. It had a lot of life and passion and a candid sense of not having an audience.
But now? Now I write for people, except that I don’t even know who it’s for. Through it all, my blog has always been personal. Just a personal blog seems so confining to me now. I’m tired of the scene. I want a blog with a sense of purpose, a direction, a mission. Something greater than myself that I can feel proud to be a part of. But I’m loss and I’m struggling to find a niche. Even just typing the word niche makes me shudder. It’s like in highschool when I was trying to find a clique to belong to and didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. A floater, a drifter, never being rooted in one place. Sounds familiar? I grew up to be just the same. Traveling in familiar, yet equally strange lands. My “second home” of the Philippines, where I was born, but where I did not grow up, is like being a stranger in my own strange culture. For once, I’m the same color as the majority that I encounter, but I still don’t quite belong…
So I’m not sure what I’m doing here. My blog is evolving and becoming as much as I am growing and becoming. Lately, I’ve been writing spiritual words. I’m in a monastery after all. Yesterday, we had a two and a half hour chanting session in Chinese. Two and a half hours. It was amazing. Hearing the different Chinese voices mesh together in one cohesive consciousness. It was a ball of energy. I couldn’t quite understand it, but I felt its power. I took a look around and wondered what the hell I’m doing here. Is this religion? Is this a part of me? Am I Buddhist? It was overwhelming and humbling.
I’ve never been religious in my life. Certainly, not now. The thought of writing softer edges because of my experiences is completely mind boggling me. Is this really ME, in this moment, at my core? The vast amount of change that I’m experiencing from moment to moment makes it hard to catch up, even as its happening.
I don’t want to write about religion, or spirituality. Not in that cheesy, hokey kind of way that I’ve been doing. It feels too canned. Safe. I’m writing for an “audience” that’s not even there. I’ve lost my edge and I want it back. I want to write like I used to. When I had heart break, when I wrote raw, emotional. When I wrote at my core. I want to have that, but I want to get away from personal blogging. I get fired up about ideas. Where they can take me. Where they can take the world. So I’m left not being sure where or how to go. I’ll figure it out, I always do. But I’m left stumbling around for now, in the vicinity of “safe” and useless and uninspired.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
I was an ardent Atheist when the Serenity prayer first had an impact on me. My boyfriend at the time told me I needed to think about it to help me feel unstuck. Coming from another Atheist, one that I was constantly at odds against, I didn’t really listen to him. Why would I let an Atheist tell me I needed to think about a God thing. What use was that to my life? When I say the Serenity prayer first had its impact on me, I really mean that it didn’t. I shoved it aside and ignored his advice, partly because I didn’t want to believe I needed help, and because I can be fiercely stubborn.
I didn’t need his help. Eventually, I figured out the Serenity prayer on my own and little did he know my catharsis would be the first of our unraveling.
I was maybe the worst version of myself in that relationship. I didn’t feel like I was being “me”. I didn’t feel I even knew who I was. It’s your typical existential 20something quarter-life crisis. Who am I?
My God lines have softened now. I feel the most myself than I have been in years. And I realize it takes courage to be yourself.
From a young age, we are told not to give in to peer pressure, but it’s not that easy. We’re constantly being bombarded with information from the media, advertising, and people. Colleagues. Best friends. Social circles. Strangers. They all have a say on what you should do, and how you should live your life. I’ve been the chameleon, molding myself to other people and their expectations of me for a long time. I’ve let that get in the way with who I am because I didn’t have the self esteem or confidence to assert myself; always yielding to other people. The choice to move beyond that and discover your true, authentic self, takes courage. Don’t let peers or society dictate who you are.
Humans have the ability to adapt to change. When faced with new environments, life threatening illnesses or a life threatening situation, we react and adapt and then either struggle or transcend. Or struggle, and then transcend. This adapting is the stuff that courage is made of. When I think of my situation here and all the people who think I’m “brave” or “courageous” for doing what I’m doing, it’s hard to feel it, because I’ve already adapted. From within myself, I still feel like the same person who’s not-so-brave but when I step outside of myself I realize that I am.
Consider the life of a monk. The monk has found his life purpose in the monastery and seeks to propagate words of compassion. To spread these important and often forgotten actions, he uses the arts to start his own magazine and then publishing company. He shares Buddhist history by opening up museums and colleges. He constantly thinks of new, innovative and entrepreneurial ways to simply fulfill his life purpose, even when he doesn’t have a single penny. He has a mission, a calling and he carves his own path just to be himself. How many people can say they’ve realized and actualized their passions in their own ways? The path to simply being yourself is harder than it seems, but ultimately more fulfilling than living on automaton. Filtering out the information from your peers and from society to listen to yourself is a challenge but it can be done through wisdom and courage.
You know what the advantages of headboards are on your bed? Handcuffs. You know the advantages of handcuffs? Foreplay. And you know who’s not getting any Foreplay at a Zen monastery? Yours. Truly.
I’m not bitter though, really. In fact, I’m in a giving mood.
I’m giving away a $50 gift certificate to any purchase from CSN Stores. That’s $50 off to some massive selections!
To enter, just leave a comment and let me know how you’d spend your gift certificate. No ulterior motives, I’m just genuinely curious.
Tweet this post for an extra entry, and make sure you show me your status link or @solitarypanda so I can keep track.
That’s it. I’ll open this contest for one full week and announce a winner via random.org by June 29th. The contest is only open to US and Canada.
Good luck and may your life be full of foreplay!
PS: I have a guest post at the Daily Dinosaur blog here today!
Don’t become Buddhist! The world doesn’t need more Buddhists. Be compassionate! The world needs more compassion. – The Dalai Lama
Is compassion something we learn, or something we are born with? I’d like to think we are all born good, but some people have learned to be further from their true goodness. Further from their true selves. It happens every time we are physically, mentally or emotionally abused, treated unfairly, bullied. Not loved. Love is important. Love changes lives. Love makes you flourish. Compassion and Love, they go hand in hand. Love for humanity is synonymous with compassion for humanity. Make love, not war, as the hippies say.
You Are Not the Center of the Universe
Learning compassion happens slowly. For me, it took lost. Lost of a relationship. Lost of an identity. That lost challenged and pushed me to redefine me. Looking at myself objectively and realizing that I am not the center of the universe was the first step. Being selfish and self-centered doesn’t jive with being compassionate. You have to look outside yourself and your (small) world of problems, accomplishments, achievements. Be humble. When you get too preoccupied with what’s going on in your world–positive or negative–you forget to reach out and be compassionate. Either your ego is too big, or your self is too shattered. Both perspectives hinder your ability to look past yourself and really listen and learn from others.
Self and No Self
The best way to help other people is to help yourself. It starts from within. By helping yourself, you are able to do more good for others and by helping others, you are also helping yourself. This full circle is an indication that there is no distinction from where the self begins and other people end. We are all part of the same humanity; the same consciousness. Self and no self? It’s all the same. Both encompass a whole. You have to find yourself to lose yourself and lose yourself to find yourself. Compassion comes when self and no self merge together. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge the compassion within to bring without. Do a little bit more yoga or meditation to be grounded and centered. Don’t let the inner critic win.
As I type, my inner critic is constantly telling me how crappy my writing is. I’m a perfectionist, and it takes forever to write something “decent”. If I become too wrapped up in my inner critic, I won’t have enough time or energy to have compassion for other people, let alone compassion for myself. Just let go and realize how small the problem actually is. We make things bigger in our minds than they actually are. It’s easy to do, and causes conflict. The best thing is to let it go. Combat the inner critic with gratitude. Problems don’t seem so big when you realize how much you have.
The Big Give
There is a contest called The Big Give that helps exercise your compassion by doing something kind for other people. If you’re into prompts and community support, The Big Give may be for you. Changing the world can be as simple as making someone smile. Making their day more enjoyable. Changing their perception of humanity. It’s all about making meaningful choices that affect others in beneficial ways. We all make choices, every day. We each have a hand at changing the world.
This weekend, we went to an all-girl’s orphanage to spread some joy. We played games with them, performed our Tai Chi Kung Fu fan routine, and mingled. I wish we had more time with them, because it didn’t feel like enough. I was glad that we could at least make them smile and laugh while we were there. I appreciate outings like this.
AKA: Hello, my name is Janet
Janet Cui Brent (God, that’s so American). Nice to meet you! I’ve used Floreta as my pseudonym ever since I was on blogspot. I liked the idea of using my former middle name. Long story short: Floreta is my grandma’s maiden name and when my single mom married an American, for conventional reasons, she changed my name to adopt our new family, dropped Floreta and made Cui my new middle name. Because that’s how Filipinos change their names.
Floreta suited me. It holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of lola (grandma). I liked the idea of creating a new persona for my online world. Reclaiming my lost name. Because I felt lost. I didn’t want to mix work and online together. I’ve always been deeply fearful of anyone from “real life” finding my blogs. Reading my thoughts. Once, someone from high school found my blog (an older reincarnation that no longer exists) and I freaked out. I’ve been shy. I’ve been socially awkward. And the amount of introspection and emotion I pour into my writings horrified me at the thought of people finding out. I needed Floreta to be brave. When I wrote about my personal heartaches, erotica, or poetry, I needed Floreta to stand strong.
If You Want to Be Internet Famous, You Might As Well Use Your Real Name
There came a point when I no longer needed to hide behind Floreta. Maybe the shift happened when I slowly let more and more of my “real life” friends read my blog after I left for my journey. Maybe the shift happened when some of my fellow monastery retreaters found my blog. When you have an online representation of your life, people you know will find it eventually. So if you’re planning to be internet famous, you might as well use your real name*. I don’t know if I really want to be “internet famous”, but I’m just saying.
I’ve got big plans for myself. I’m putting that out there so the Universe will know and so I feel more accountable. That’s what I do when I’m scared of something. I tell people my ideas so I’m more likely to follow through with them. Like how I told everyone that I was going to the Philippines nearly two years ago. To live with my family. Maybe go back to school. Explore my options. Travel.
People wholeheartedly encouraged me. Said it was possible. Made me feel I wasn’t crazy. Like this quarter-life crisis was normal.
These are the Little Baby Steps that make a huge difference. You feel it out. Test the waters. See how people react. You make lists of steps to take to achieve your goal(s) and then go about completing them, not necessarily in order. You think. A lot. You freak out. You think some more. You think you can’t do it, and you’re crazy, on bad days. You start to think maybe you can do it, after all, on good days. The amount of thinking that fills your brain propels you to action. You think so much you have no choice but to act. Because the amount of thinking takes up a huge chunk of your time. You don’t want it all to go to waste. And you realize it’s not a waste.
I fucking DID IT. I traveled to Asia. I was scared out of my mind before boarding that plane. But I did. I crossed international date lines and found myself in a whirling mess and confusion of India (which, by the way, is NOT the easiest country to travel to for your first solo trip). Found myself in the Philippines back home with my family. Found myself in a Buddhist temple. You adapt. You realize what scares you isn’t as scary as you thought it would be.
You realize what scares you isn’t as scary as you thought it would be.
I’m scared out of my mind. Once again. But I’m telling you, and I’m telling the Universe, so I can be accountable. A simple nudge in the right direction. Baby steps.
The other week or so, I won a free e-book called The Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself. You may be familiar with Chris from The Art of Non-Conformity. He’s kind of big.
I don’t necessarily want to be internet famous, but I want to use my online presence to build a business. And that’s it. I’ve put this off long enough, because I had this vague notion of “moving to Asia and becoming location independent” when I got here, without actually doing anything to get there. The calling is getting louder and I can’t ignore it anymore. If I want to build a career out of my web presence, it only makes sense to use my real name.
Loud and proud. Future internet stalkers and boyfriends can find me now. Reclaiming my real name is empowering. Because it shows I’m ready. I’m serious. I can’t hide behind monikers and pseudonyms anymore. And when/if I get married, I’m reclaiming my middle name.
Internet: my name is Janet, and lets rock it!
*Unless you’re Perez Hilton, which works for a “personal brand” more than whatever boring name he actually has.
Yoga and me have had an on and off again relationship for years. The same way I’ve had and on and off again relationship for any sort of exercise regimen I try, really. I love it every time, but commitment is hard, especially when you don’t always have the funds to take consistent classes. The key is to go into a yoga studio to catch their new student specials. Bonus points for new yoga studios who usually have extra special specials. The kind of special that celebrates We Just Opened! Two weeks unlimited for $15! $5 classes for the month of May! First class free! And on and on.
I remember the first time I stepped into a yoga studio. With unlimited classes, that meant me double stacking two 90 minute yoga sessions one after the other, several days a week, because I’m crazy like that. The instructors were impressed with my dedication for a newbie. Everyone was clearly hardcore yogis–with the majority of the class as flexible as a pretzel–that I was definitely intimidated. I couldn’t even touch my toes, but within one week, I was able to touch my palms to the ground. Yoga taught me that it isn’t about what the other people around you are doing. You’re on your own mat, and your own separate practice. It doesn’t matter how advanced other people may seem, just concentrate on what you’re doing, and focus on your breathe. I think life is like that, too. What I learn on the mat I take with me.
My first yoga classes got lost in the shuffle of a move. I didn’t pick up again until a year later when I had the opportunity to do free yoga sessions with someone my then-boyfriend knew. We did those sessions together, with his coworkers, out in the rural desert horizons of his friend’s living room space. I always thought it was romantic because, well, I always think life is romantic. She was a middle-aged woman with those signature yogi arms. Toned and sleek. Her abs taut and tiny. God, I was jealous of her abs. I always looked forward to her sessions because she played ambient music in the background.
Life got busy and after a couple months, she stopped offering free sessions. I’d try other things here and there. Spin classes at the local gym. Cardio weight training. Kenpo karate. Sometimes, yoga on my DVDs. But it wasn’t until years later that I would try yoga classes again. They were too expensive for me, or, my priorities just didn’t want to make that monthly chunk of money commitment, so I only practiced during those $5 specials, or one week free. One local studio offered free “yoga trance dance”, and mostly, that’s what I’d do. Dancing freely to interpretative rhythms of live djembe music, guitar and trumpet. Once, the studio offered a free 108 sun salutation session so I went to that too.
Inhale palms to the sky, exhale forward fold, touching your toes. Inhale look up, palms to your knees. Exhale back down to forward fold. Inhale plank down to cobra. Exhale downward dog. And on and on. 108 times.
Then, I tried Bikram. The infamous hot yoga that’s practiced in a 105 degree room. This was two week’s unlimited. Every day, I’d sweat it out on the mat, giving each 26 positions my full concentration and effort. I was amazed by how much my body sweated. My clothes were drenched in liquid, but it felt so good. Yoga always makes me want to be kinder to my body. The effects usually last a full day. I’ll drink a smoothie, eat a banana and drink lots of water. Nourishment. If only I could feel that way everyday. I guess I just need to do more yoga.
Doing more yoga is fairly simple when you live in a monastery and have lots of breaks throughout your schedule. I realized that I don’t need a class, or even DVDs to have a yoga workout. I know enough poses to do it on my own now. It just never occurred to me when you’re so used to having other people hold your hand. But here, I hold my own hand. Here, I realize that I am empowered to hold my own hand. During the first month, I taught a yoga class to my fellow classmates. Each week, we’re expected to take turns sharing our knowledge and skills. For me, happily, it was yoga.
I’m a newbie traveler. The kind of newbie traveler that’s traversed back and forth from the Pacific Northwest and tropical Cebu, Philippines so many times its become my 2nd home, visited Canada once when I was too young to remember, and saw India for the first time January of this year. I’m not sure if you can really call that a newbie traveler, but it feels like it sometimes. I haven’t seen beautiful African sunsets, backpacked through Europe, or trekked to Macchu Picchu. But already, this taste of adventure has got me hooked for more.
I’m falling off the deep end. Wondering when my traveling adventure will end and finding myself not wanting it to. Dreaming of being a professional nomad. The kind of nomad with no permanent address or place to call home. Who only sets foot on American soil as a visitor, or for that matter, anywhere, as a Visitor. Who weaves in and out of people’s lives with no sense of permanency. Then I think, that’s crazy, and what am I trying to run away from? Or what am I trying to run *towards*? It’s a valid lifestyle for some people, but is it the right lifestyle for me? The further off the deep end you go, the harder it is to find someone worth sharing your adventures with. I might as well call it early and claim my Spinster role. I won’t be joining the monastery, but in the name of Feminism, I’ll reclaim the Spinster! Except, I don’t want to be a spinster. Not really.
I think about how I want to be part of community and a family. That can’t be right because they’re two opposing lifestyles. The dilemma that has always been my dilemma is my contradictory nature. This brash, black and white thinking that leaves me all sorts of confused and unable to decipher what the hell I really want. Probably, somewhere half way. Meet me in the middle in the shades of gray. That sounds cheesy and poetic but what I mean is I want some sort of compromise. I don’t want to give up my wanderlust, but I don’t want to hide from possibility and potential, either. I don’t want to quit before it can even start. So, I don’t want to be a spinster.
What I’m talking about is commitment. Attachment. Detachment. Maybe the long-term nomadic lifestyle isn’t about commitment-phobia for some people, but I know it would be for me. At what point does travel become an excuse to ignore commitments? Not just love. Certainly, love. But the “real world”, student loans, work? Travel, for me, cannot come from a place of hiding, running away from, whatever it is I want to avoid. Because, as they say, “wherever you go, there you are.”
I’m constantly evaluating myself and my motives. I don’t want to run away. That’s not what this is all about. I want to run towards and confront who I am and who I’m meant to be. I’m discovering my Authentic Self. And with all of the potential and possibilities right within my reach, I owe it to myself not to quit. I can’t. I’ve barely even begun. The moment travel becomes about avoiding commitment, I reshape my motives and change it. That doesn’t mean flying back home… It just means taking the plunge. Whatever it may be. You have to have some faith. Trust that everything will work out and do everything you can within your control to shape it, guide it along the process. Trust the process.
Reclaiming the spinster is quitting on love, and I don’t want to quit on that, especially. I’ve been burned before but it makes me appreciate love more. Appreciate my teachers (read: exes) and lessons that I’ve learned. There will always be “failures” but that just leaves more room for success. The more you fail, the closer you are to success. With anything.
The best way to deal with commitment-phobia or paralysis of any kind is to simply commit. Do the work. Write 800 words a day. Meditate daily. Practice yoga 5x a week. Be creative. Love someone. Whatever it is, do it. Do what you’ve committed yourself to doing. Don’t hold back. Don’t judge. Shut-up your inner critic and commit.
Realize that it will be hard, and that’s normal. Realize that you will want to quit, and continue doing it. Pushing through the disillusionment will take you to the sweet spot of awareness. That’s where Truth starts to happen, and you can journey closer to your Authentic Self.
I. Thoughts On Chinese Steamed Siopao
100 whacks across the
Strong hands wield dough
Masculine and ear splitting
Decimals vibrate my eardrums
Gently pinch close
Supple yeast filled dough of
Chinese siopao bun
Inside: yellow camote
Like pleated white rose petals
Ready to paint
Blossoming and feminine
Delicate yet strong
II. We had a poet come in to speak the other day, followed by a cooking session on how to make Chinese siopao, a steamed bun with filling. Typical siopao usually has some sort of meat combination and boiled egg, but here at the monastery, we cook everything vegetarian, and for the most part, vegan! Siopao was the last meat item I ever ate, on March 29th when I first journeyed to the temple by way of bus and ferry. It was gross and disgusting to me. I like vegetarian siapao much better. Just for fun, we played around with words while we learned how to make it. Mostly becoming sensual in nature. Who knows what you’ll get when depraved young adults admit themselves into a monastery, especially when it comes to buns. “I’ll make a poem out of this!” I ass-ured.
I used to write poetry. Like a lot. I was on fire with the thoughts and ideas flitting about the pixel page. My muse entered when I newly became single. Lately, it seems to have died. People told me I was a good poet, which I never believed about myself and never associated with the label. It was hard to wear a new hat as “poet” considering I don’t even get poetry or read the stuff. It’s still hard to consider myself a poet, especially when my muse has been quiet. I’ve been frustrated with this blog and on writing, wondering what the “direction” is and where to take it. I don’t really know what to write anymore, lacking inspiration, and feel this, and maybe by extension, my life, a waste of space. There, I said it. You caught me in one of my funks. I fear this, I, me, is a waste of space. That’s silly, of course, and I know I’m better than that but let me just acknowledge the imperfections of my day-to-day.
I used to go to poetry slams, where I used to live. Back before my life turned completely nomadic, and was only semi-nomadic by way of 1) moving out of a house that I had co-owned with an ex (bad idea) in Small Town, population: 10,000 to Big Town population: 85,000 2) Joint move with two gay roomies (the most gloriously wonderful bearded gay couple ever) about 8 months later across town to Downtown (a wonderful spot). Downtown was the place to be. I only lived there four whole months but it was bliss. A sushi restaurant I never did get around to trying just across the street to the east (the novelty of the option to go there was enough for me). A health food store across the street to the south that I often frequented for bite-sized meals. A billiards lounge and fancy martini bar with a fabulous $5 menu and to die for red velvet cake southeast and… I could go on and on. The point is, I used to go to poetry slams, and right in downtown, I could easily walk there. And, the not so other point is (if you can read between the very obvious lines), maybe I miss that place.
The poetry slams were mostly a spectator sport. I came to watch poets, not to be a poet. I remember one particularly sexy poet named Trabajo. Who knows if that was his real name, because if you don’t know (and you should, because that’s one of those easy words that EVERYONE should know like ¡hola!), that actually means work in Spanish. Trabajo had the most beautifully toned and natural biceps I’ve ever seen, and he probably knew it too, by how he always wore sleeveless shirts, even in Autumn. That accent… It was a mix of Latin lover and Exotic. The kind of yummy accent that rolls on your tongue and maybe even melts in your mouth. Scrumptious. I wondered if it was possible for poets to have groupies, and if I could be one. But Trabajo soon left for Jaimaca, and bigger and better things than the town of Bend had to offer. There are just some people that outgrow their surroundings and Trabajo was one of them. Maybe I was too.
Someday, I guess I’d like to be a poet. I mean, not just any poet. A poet up on stage, slamming. I guess I should put that on my bucket list. #82 (I’m just picking an arbitrary number): Join a poetry slam. Who the hell am I kidding though? I’m not a poet. Not a real poet. And certainly not the kind of poet who can speak in front of crowds, rapping rhythms. Which probably makes it just the kind of thing to add to my bucket list. Who says I can’t? Who’s stopping me? Nothing short of Fear. The ever constant companion.
III. I joined this thing. This creative challenge thing. It’s over on my sidebar and it’s purple. You can’t miss it. Every day for 21 days, I’ll write 800 words. This can be anything from blog posts, business plans, poetry, personal journal entries, stories, anything. 5x a week, I’ll be doing yoga. And there’s a whole community of bloggers doing this. Creative challenges are for lazy-asses like me who can’t do anything on their own. I’m always up for a good challenge. Especially if it involves writing + yoga. Love.
Maybe you’ll be reading more of me. Maybe.
Sunset at the temple.
I’m on a pilgrimage, of sorts.
You’re probably thinking, well, duh, why else would I be at a Zen monastery for 4 months? Obvious, right? But It’s taken me awhile to fully realize this and take it in. When I bought my one-way tickets to India and the Philippines, I had absolutely no plans other than the 3 weeks that I spent as an experiential tourist volunteering at a slum school. The Philippines was completely open. I knew I wanted to stay here for at least a year, and eventually work towards a location independent career, but I’ve been taking my sweet time enjoying my career break/sabbatical instead. It’s not easy acknowledging I’m on a break, and I had no idea I would ever be joining a monastery to do so. After all, admitting myself to a nunnery would definitely be out of the question. I’m NOT Catholic and it takes a better person than myself to admit themselves to a religious experience other than their own (not that I’m Buddhist, but pretty close). This unexpected path has taken my pilgrimage from conceptual to reality.
Many people seem to travel on a pilgrimage. “The gap year” is the ultimate way for seekers and searchers to discover about themselves; what their passions are, what they’d like to do with life. At 27, I guess I’m taking my gap year a bit “late”, but I’ve learned to accept that I’m a late bloomer. And really, who’s to say what late is, as if there’s a specific timeline for these things? A specific set path? I knew long ago that I wasn’t going on the fast track of college, career, marriage, house and kids. Standard and traditional is just not for me.
Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert took her “gap year” in her mid thirties. Her pilgrimage turned into a delightful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, that I read after the demise of my own relationship. While I already “knew” that I would journey back to Asia before reading the book, her words inspired me to make my thoughts reality. It’s completely surreal to me that I’m now having my own eat, pray, love journey of my own, sans the foreign lover, of course.
I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to “find”. Purpose, maybe. A meaning to this insignificant speck of the universe that is my existence. Some people might say this is the quarter-life “crisis” but I refuse to believe that life is a crisis as I am having the time of my life (cue Green Day song). Some days, it can seem daunting, like when I’m thinking about becoming a freelancer. Other days, it can seem exciting, like when I’m thinking about becoming a freelancer… It depends where my mind is. Sometimes, being in limbo feels like the scariest, most unstable place to be and other times, I feel blessed to have such great opportunities for exploration. Pushing through the transition phase can be tough. Focusing on the process, moving forward each day with your goals, is a great way to take control of your life and be happy. It’s not about finding purpose, but creating it.
Walk for Peace
Adding to my Pilgrimage repertoire, I have the chance to go on a 280 mile walk around the island of Palawan with a local. Just walking. While living in a monastery is quite possibly the craziest thing I’ve ever done, walking 280 miles might top it. With nothing but the stars and night sky as our blanket, the idea would be to interact with communities and people that we meet along our travels; offering them lessons that we would share for free. Things like yoga, martial arts, meditation. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll take the plunge. It’s quite possibly the craziest and scariest thing I’ve ever thought of doing. Oh, but it would be great blog (and life) fodder! What about that business idea I’ve been thinking about? It’d be great fodder for that too…